Friday, July 22, 2016

Preparing for a Maternity Leave from your Art Classroom

No, not me.  I'm not expecting a baby in my life until my two kids grow up and have kids of their own.  I'm not writing this post to announce anything in my world... but more as a response to Jessica Smith on Facebook.  This is why I love being a part of professional social media #PLN's (personal learning networks), it starts such good conversations. Jessica writes this...

I did respond to her on her post but my mind is bubbling with thoughts of how to prepare for a maternity leave.  I had to write a post and hopefully you will comment and add to the conversation as well. 

I had my son 10 years ago.  He was due on Christmas but decided it would be better to come for Thanksgiving.  I worked so hard the first three months of school preparing every aspect of my leave.  I set up every lesson and prepped the materials.  I wrote detailed notes on every class and every student.

Baby two came two years later.  She came in November too. This time, I didn't plan much.  I had some curriculum books and handed them over, I talked to my teachers to support my sub with their homeroom classes and they did.  I gave some goals but only concepts, not lesson plans.

Both times I came back after my 12-week leave, the classes were the same.  Students jumped back into my classroom expectations. They learned what they learned while I was gone.  The supplies had been used and cleaned up, and life went on.  That was the main thing I learned.  I have pride in my job, and want my students to succeed... but life goes on with or without me there. So here are a few bullet points to think about when preparing for any leave from your art studio... maternity or otherwise. 

  • Your sub is not a sub... it's your student's new teacher. When you have a sub in for a couple of days, the substitute teachers job is to come in and teach what you have prepared for them.  When it's a long-term sub, they become the teacher. They have prep time, they have access to your class grades/rosters, they are a teacher and can/should have the responsibility of a teacher.
  • Because your sub is the new teacher, trust them to teach.  For my second maternity leave, I laid out the concepts I wanted her to cover rather than the lesson.  I told my sub to teacher line in first grade, and texture in 2nd grade, and so on... This way the guest teacher in your classroom is welcome to become passionate about his/her lessons.  It's not fun to teach a lesson you aren't excited about, so let your sub plan something they can be passionate about.
  • Let them lump lessons.  If your K's and 1st grade can both cover lines at the same time, suggest that your guest teacher teach the same lesson... maybe just beef up the lesson a bit more for your 1st grade. Lumping lessons simplifies your subs visit.
  • You can give suggestions of mediums you would like your sub to use.  If you really want to use that metal tooling you have in your backroom... simply put a note on it saying, do not use.  If you have a boatload of paper maché ask them to do at least one project with that medium. It's ok to restrict your supplies a bit. You are still in charge of your budget.
  • Give guidelines for classroom management, but let go of that too.  It's great to have consistency in your classroom but it's not your classroom when you are gone.  Your sub must be able to manage your classes the way it feels best for them.  Step back and let them do so.  Your principal will be a great resource for anyone who needs a little extra help. 
  • Rely on your co-workers and support staff.  Absolutely leave notes on students with special needs and maybe even different abilities... but also allow your sub to make their own judgment.  Ask your paraprofessionals to assist with suggestions with students they are assisting.  Ask your teachers to be a resource for their classes. Talk to your special ed team or and nursing staff to have them check in with your sub while you are out.  Teacher support one another, you just have to ask for it. Plus, this is a great way for your sub to feel comfortable in your building if the teaching and support staff of the building have been asked to come in and help them.
  • If you don't have curriculum to support your guest teacher, leave them links to art education blogs and resources.  Send them to Deep Space Sparkle, Cassie Stephens, Shine Brite, Painted Paper, Art Projects for Kids, Art is Basic, Mr. E, and so many other great resources I have scrolling on my blogroll to the right. These are amazing resources that can support anyone teaching in an art studio (leave or not). 
  • When you are on leave... be on LEAVE... don't check in on your classroom. In fact, I might even go as far as to suggest not leaving your phone number or contact information.  There is no need... Your time should be focused on the new addition to your household, or healing your body depending on your reason for a leave.  Put your focus there.  Your classroom is going to be fine.
  • Take as much time as your finances will allow.  This is a once in a lifetime situation.   With both leaves I took the max amount of weeks my district would allow me to take.  I never regretted it.  But I have seen teachers in my building sad, sleep deprived, and stressed out because they came back too soon from a leave. Take care of you.
I have a feeling this list will grow with comments fromviewerss.  Let this be a conversation jumping off point, what do you disagree with, agree with, or would add? Share in the comments below. 


  1. Good advice! Thanks for linking to my blog. The biggest things I can think of are to not worry so much. The kids will survive, the class will go on, as much as it pains you to think of.. someone else can teach your art classes just fine! And if not, it will be ok. And yes, take as much time as you can. I had to go a month early on bedrest. We were broke but things worked out. Family members surprised us by helping us.

    1. I thought of you a lot when writing this because I know you have young ones too. Thanks for the additional advice!

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  2. I think this is all great advice! I have not been a teacher on maternity leave as I was not working full time at the time, but...I have been on the other end, the long term substitute end, and I wholeheartedly agree with your philosophy that the long term sub is the teacher when you're gone. There's a fine line of trying to keep some consistency between the actual teacher's systems and then making it your own and working for you. So I love how you allowed your long term sub the freedom to do that. I think giving them the basics of what and what not and then letting them go with your trusting them is the best way. I know at times I worried and worried b/c I'd been left with specific stuff even as to routines and I didn't want to mess up. So that freedom and trust is important!